Following Mary’s example, the contemplative is a person centred in God. (VDQ 10)

The Habit of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel



     "She has given us the Habit of her Order

that we may be, in the world, her living image"


This quotation from the preface of the Solemnity of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, explicitly expresses the meaning of the Carmelite habit. The hermits of Mount Carmel, from the very beginning of their life in Palestine, were called the brothers of Our Lady.  Their habit, given special emphases by the apparition of Saint Simon Stock receiving the scapular from the Virgin in 1251, was a sign of being under the guarded protection of Our Lady.  Our habit therefore demonstrates our desire to clothe ourselves with Marian virtues as nuns of “The Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel”.
"Called to be part of the family of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the nuns wear the habit of their Order, as a sign of their consecration and testimony of poverty."  (Constitutions No. 95)
 “The necessities of life are water, bread, clothing and a house to assure privacy”, (Sirach 29, 21).  Such are the primordial conditions of our existence.  Privacy, or solitude such as the cloister, afford a protected space shielding one from an often busy and chaotic world.  One is not reduced to an object of materialistic envy, but finds in this quiet depth the presence of the Creator.
Thus being clothed is a sign of the human person’s identity and proper distinction. "Rebekah said to the servant, ‘Who is that man walking through the fields to meet us?’ The servant replied,  ‘It is my master’.  Rebekah then covered her face with her veil.” (Genesis 24,65) To cover one's face in the pre-nuptial encounter is a rite of consecration to the one chosen, a woman’s responds to the gesture of the bridegroom’s aspirations as he "covers her with his cloak” (Rt 3,9 cf Dt 23,1).  “Then I passed by you, noticing that you had reached the age of love. I spread my cloak over you and covered your nakedness. I swore a solemn oath to you and entered into a marriage covenant with you, declares the sovereign Lord, and you became mine.  (Ezekiel 16, 8)
A garment also reflects one’s  life in community, as each person as a  cell in the Mystical Body of Christ,  is a sign of a harmonious life born of work in common (1Sa 25,4-8,  Prov.31,10ss, Acts 18,3,  Acts 9,39).  Lastly a garment characterizes the great functions in Israel: royalty (purple), priesthood (to put on the sacred cloth), and prophetic vocation as when Elias threw his cloak over Elijah.
The garment is also a sign of a person’s spiritual condition or identification. Adam, after having sinned, perceived that he was naked, as sin had robbed him of his innocence. It was then that he covered himself.  According to Hebrew mysticism, Adam before sin was not naked.  Rather, he was clothed in light, clothed in the splendor and glory whose grace adorned him – a nuptial clothing preparing one for en encounter with the Lord.
So that we also may be thus adorned, Christ the true Servant was disrobed, and subjected to a parody of royal investiture (Mt 27,35: Jn 19,23) ... yet  His transfiguration confirms the resplendence of  his garments, His human body glorified.
Nonetheless this glory will be manifest only on the day of the Resurrection, when one will shed one’s corruptible garment for an incorruptible garment.  “So while we are in this tent, we groan under our burdens, because we do not wish to be unclothed, but clothed, so that our mortality may be swallowed up by life”.        (2 Cor. 5, 3).  
Those who triumph "have washed their robes and have whitewashed them in the blood of the Lamb" (Rev 7,14 ; 22,14). The spouse cannot disappoint her beloved and she adorns herself in anticipation for the nuptials. "She has been given to dress herself with flaxen linen" (19, 7).    
Thus will the priest bless the habit which the novice will receive on the day of her clothing: "God our Father, you have willed that your Son should put on our mortal nature by incarnating himself in the bosom of the Virgin Mary our Mother.  Grant to your handmaid, who is to wear this habit which we bless, to be the sign of the resurrection to come, and to put on one day the imperishable glory. "

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